Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Bathing Beauty, Part III: The Shower Surround (continued)

In the last post I left y'all hanging at the end of day four of our tiling adventure.  (Sorry about that, by the way.  I figured it would be better to work on the actual bathroom project rather than write about it.  Also, let me apologize now for a lack of photos in this post; I'll probably add some in at some point.)  That was a Monday in early September.  The original plan looked like this:

Day One (Friday): Demo existing shower surround and install new plumbing.
Day Two (Saturday): Install new plastic sheeting, concrete backerboard, and new tiles.
Day Three (Sunday): Grout.
Day Four (Monday): Apply sealer and caulk.

The actual timeline looked more like this:

Day One (Friday): Begin demolition.
Day Two (Saturday): Finish demolition, install new plumbing, hang out and take a break with Ren
                                       and Mike.
Day Three (Sunday): Hang plastic sheeting, backerboard, troubleshoot space between wall and tub,
                                       and take down backerboard to fix crooked plumbing.
Day Four (Monday): Fill in jagged holes along tile line, tape and mortar backerboard seams, sand
                                       to-be-exposed walls, and adjust tile layout and measurements prior to cutting
                                       and laying the actual tile.

As I mentioned before, we still thought the end was near and expected to be done with the shower sometime before the following weekend.  We could not have been more wrong.  What follows is a story of our weeks-long, and stumbling-block-riddled project.

I went to bed Monday night with the intent to rise early the next morning and get tiling.  I expected the tiling to take a day or two at most.  I woke up Tuesday with one of the worst migraines I've ever had in my life.  Needless to say, I did not complete laying tile in one day.  I worked through the pain for as long as I could bear it, but I had to call it quits by around 3:30pm that day. 

We did not buy the pre-mixed mortar because the dry stuff was much cheaper.  "Plus," we thought, "how hard could mixing mortar be?"  Well, not as easy as one might think.  (At least for me...)  I followed the package directions and ended up with a paste so thick I could barely stir it.  After mixing until it felt like my arm was going to fall off I started spreading the mortar on the wall.  It was much thicker than I had read it should have been, but I had followed the directions on the package so I thought I was in the clear.  I wasn't.  A few of the first tiles I put up were not looking quite right, so I removed them and scraped the almost-dry mortar off the wall.  It took the next 30 minutes to come up with mortar of the proper consistency, but at least now I knew the package was wrong.

By Tuesday afternoon, I had put up 14 rows of tile on one of the short walls as well as a few rows on the long wall.  That doesn't sound like much, but the spacers for use between the tiles were giving me a lot of trouble and popping out right after I put them in so I ended up using a level to place each tile.  (I can't help my perfectionist tendencies.)  It turns out that takes a long time.  And even longer when working through a migraine.

The next day (Day 6: Wednesday) I was able to complete a much larger portion of the tiling.  I still was not anywhere near complete, but I got a lot of work done.  Each batch of mortar took 10-15 minutes to mix and set up before I could begin using it and I could only mix what I could use in about a 20 minute period, as any longer would result in mortar that was too dry.  And because I was working alone at this point, I didn't have anyone there to mix new batches while I used the current batch.  To add to all of this, I was cutting all my tiles (the ones that needed cuts) by hand with a tile scorer, rather than with the electric tile saw, because the saw was leaving jagged edges and I was not okay with that.  At this point I was sure we could finish this project by the weekend.

On Thursday I was able to complete another large portion of tiling.  After breaking for lunch I was admiring my handiwork when I noticed a few of the cuts on tiles from early on in the tiling project were not as straight as some of the more recent cuts.  At this point I decided to knock those few tiles off and replace them with straighter tiles. (Again, my perfectionist tendencies got in the way of quick work in favor of good work.)  After that was complete I resumed tiling and did not take a break again until Aaron arrived home from work.  I brought him back to show him my progress and at this point I noticed I had made a huge mistake.

We had planned on having two slim black tile lines running horizontally along the walls about 3/4 of the way up the wall.  I had been on such a roll putting tile up that I had passed that mark and continued on with the white tile for five more rows.  To top it off, I couldn't just take down a row or two of the accidentally-laid tile because the slim tiles would change the placement of the upper rows completely.  I started trying to knock those tiles off and discovered that I had become a mortar-mixing pro; they wouldn't budge.  Much to my chagrin, Aaron brought in the reciprocating saw with the scraper attachment and went to work.  He knocked down the tiles that I needed removed, but we were left with a very rough and bumpy surface that needed sanding before any tiles could go back up.  He sanded and I called it a day.  It was at this point that I noticed our dog, Jack, was dry-heaving.  Just what we needed; a sick dog.

By Friday, I was beat, both mentally and physically, and the dog was still dry-heaving.  I put up a few rows of tile on one of the short walls and decided to take a break for the remainder of the day.  Saturday also turned into a day of rest for me.  It's a bit of a blur, so I can't remember what we did instead, but I do know Aaron made some much-needed cuts for me with the tile saw.  Jack was still retching, but he seemed to be getting a little better.  Here's where the story starts to get interesting.

On Sunday (day ten, mind you) we were awoken at 6 in the morning by a very sick pup.  Jack was not looking good.  We decided that Aaron should take  him to the vet while I went back to work on the tile, but my mind was on Jack so I didn't accomplish much.  A couple hours later I got a scary phone call from Aaron saying that Jack may need very dangerous emergency surgery on his intestines.  I had been working slowly before, but at this point I stopped tiling altogether.  I heard back from Aaron a couple more hours later: false alarm.  There were no obstructions; Jack had probably just breathed in too much dust from our project (despite our efforts to keep him away from it) or he had swallowed something that scratched up his throat.  He was sent home with some medicine to soothe his throat and after a few days he was back to normal.

It took me a few more days to finish putting up the rest of the tile.  By Thursday I had almost all of the border tiles put up as well, but in the late afternoon I had a few moments of feeling light-headed.  (I feel like such a drama queen sometimes, but I was really feeling faint and standing on a ladder while feeling faint is a bad idea.)  I got up Friday morning and finished putting up the few remaining border tiles I had left from the day before.  I had already made the decision to begin grouting after lunch so I wouldn't need to take a break in the middle of it all, but by noon I began having pretty bad stomach cramps and within a couple of hours I couldn't move without my abdomen hurting.

I made some phone calls and did some research on the internet Friday evening to rule out appendicitis and, when I was pretty certain that was NOT what I was experiencing, I chalked up the pain to really bad gas and went to bed early so we could get the grout done the next day.  I woke up Saturday still in pain, but it wasn't as bad as it had been the night before, and resting seemed to help so I stayed in bed while Aaron began grouting.  By Saturday afternoon I was feeling a lot better, but still not quite normal.  Aaron took a break to watch a football game with me and then went back to the grouting.  I talked to my mom on the phone and promised to go to the doctor on Sunday if I wasn't feeling better or if the pain wasn't gone.

Sunday morning I woke up to discover that while the pain had gone down, it still wasn't gone.  I called the on-call nurse at our healthcare provider and, after discussing my symptoms with me, she directed me to go in to the emergency room.  I was skeptical, but urgent care is closed on Sunday, along with the regular doctor's office, so the ER was my only option.  I had never been to the ER before, but TV would have me believe I was about to wait for hours to see a doctor in a noisy waiting room filled with people with colds.  Great.  Just how I wanted to spend my Sunday.

Upon arriving, though, I was surprised to find an almost empty, and almost silent waiting room and I was in a bed within 10 minutes.  I discussed my symptoms with the nurse and she took my blood to run labs and started me on a saline drip.  She also offered me pain medication, but I refused as my pain was nearly gone by this point.  The doctor came in not long after and after discussing my symptoms with me told me he doubted I had been walking around, eating normally, etc. for three days with appendicitis.  Regardless, he ordered a CT scan to rule out a laundry list of other things.  I had to drink the contrast and then about an hour and a half later I was off to get the CT scan.

Ten minutes later I was back in my room and by that point my pain was almost completely gone.  A little while later the nurse came back with the results of my blood work: completely normal, good even.  She told me she had never seen a person with appendicitis come in with regular blood work before so we could be 99% sure that wasn't the issue.  Not three minutes later the doctor arrived with the results of my CT.  I am going to use his direct quote now because it made me laugh.

"You know how I said you wouldn't be walking around with appendicitis for three days?  Well, you have been walking around with appendicitis for three days.  You must have an incredibly high pain threshold!"

So off to surgery I went and by 6pm I was back home in my own bed with three new holes in my abdomen.  Aaron was able to finish the grouting, caulking, and sealing by Monday afternoon, no thanks to me, and our shower was ready to use by Monday night. 

So, to recap, after 18 days, we had a new hole in the dining room wall, a sick (and subsequently healed) dog, appendicitis and surgery to remove it, and a re-tiled shower surround.

See Bathing Beauty: Parts I, II, and III for before photos, our inspiration for the renovation, and the initial stage of work.